Where Do I Start? How to Prepare for the NCLEX Examination

By Lanette Anderson on Fri, Aug 01, 2014

nclex test preparationIf you are graduating from nursing school, you undoubtedly are thinking about the NCLEX examination, the nurse licensure exam utilized in all U.S. states and most territories. It is the most comprehensive examination that you probably have taken so far in your life and determines your future in this profession. And yes, it’s a big deal. I say that not to intimidate, but to acknowledge that any fear or trepidation that you feel about the exam is justified. It is shared by just about everyone else in your situation.

The bright side is that there are some effective ways to prepare for the NCLEX, whether you are taking the RN or PN version. Let’s talk about a few of the strategies:

  1. Study

    That may sound simplistic, but it is easy to have a “let down” in studying after the excitement of graduation. Take a break for yourself; read a book, go on vacation, and otherwise reward yourself for successfully completing the rigors of nursing school. You deserve it.

    The key is knowing that the break is only temporary and that the hard work isn’t really over until you pass the NCLEX. A mistake that some graduates make is assuming that nursing school has prepared them enough to pass, which may or may not be the case. NCLEX questions are written in specific ways, and it takes practice to be comfortable with the fact that for a multiple choice question you may be expected to use your critical thinking skills to select the best right answer from those provided.

    It has been recommended that preparation for the NCLEX should include at least 1,000 practice questions. That may sound unreasonable. But the simple fact is that you cannot take too many, yet you can take too few practice questions.

  2. Take a review course

    There are several NCLEX review courses available from a variety of companies that are designed to help prepare for the licensure examination. Some are structured courses where the graduate physically attends classes offered to help identify any strengths and deficiencies in study practices, and review sample questions. Others are online courses that can accomplish the same things.

    NCLEX review books are also available at many bookstores. The key is finding the course that is right for you based upon your learning style, needs, and price range. Generally speaking, a review course can be very helpful. Most schools of nursing recommend that they be used. Some schools even provide them to their graduates. You may want to check with your nursing school to see if that’s the case.

  3. Take a look at the Test Plan

    The National Council of State Boards of Nursing has some excellent information about preparing for the NCLEX. Included are the Test Plans for both the RN and PN licensure examinations. These provide information regarding the focus and the scope of the exams. The Test Plans are reviewed and/or revised every three years based upon results of entry into practice surveys of newly licensed nurses. Remember that the NCLEX is designed to demonstrate competence in basic entry level practice.

  4. Stay calm

    In light of everything stated above, that probably sounds impossible. Do all of the things that you think that you need to do based upon your own self-assessment and that of an outside source such as a review course. If you do that, your confidence level should increase and you will be able to show up at the NCLEX testing center rested, prepared, and at ease. We wish you the best of luck!

Do you have other tips to help nursing school graduates prepare for the NCLEX?